Friday, November 12, 2010

11.15.10 : Artist Entry : Josh Keyes

Josh Keyes was born in Tacoma, Washington. He received a BFA in 1992 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in 1998 from Yale. Eighteenth-century aesthetics and philosophies, particularly those of the Neoclassical and Romantic movements, shape his work. Keyes is drawn to the clinical and often cold vocabulary of scientific textbook illustrations, which express the empirical "truth" of the world and natural phenomena. He infuses into a rational stage set many references to contemporary events along with images and themes from his personal mythology and experience. These elements come together in an unsettling vision, one that speaks to the hope, fear, and anxiety of our time. Keyes currently lives and works in Portland Oregon with his wife, graphic designer Lisa Ericson.

Josh’s work brings to mind the detail and complexity of natural history dioramas, and the color and diagrammatic complexity one might find in cross section illustrations from a vintage science textbook. His work has developed over the past years into an iconic and complex personal vocabulary of imagery that creates a mysterious and sometimes unsettling juxtaposition between the natural world and the man made landscape. The work conveys an anxious vision of what the world might be like in the future as a result of current global warming predictions.

Keyes’ interest in creating paintings that fuse realism with the possible often evokes the imagery found in dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature, while other works express the optimism and utopian ideas found in the writings of Buckminster Fuller and Paolo Soleri. Keyes often incorporates objects and animals into his dissected environments that have personal iconographic significance. He weaves his personal mythology through fractured and isolated landscapes that are either overgrown with vegetation or underwater, and often depict historic or military monuments covered with graffiti. The imagery functions as a way for Keyes to express his personal experience and also allows him to comment and interpret events in the world.

"Keyes' artworks are neither optimistic nor nihilistic. If anything, they seem to hover between fear and fury, between sorrow and acceptance. But they do contain a level of urgency, addressing such exigent issues as the extinction of species and the emergence of a new global topography." - Excerpt from "Animal Planet", by George Melrod

"My intention is to create work that asks questions about the implications of urban sprawl and its impact on the environment. I am interested in creating psychological narratives set in closed systems that express the behavior of and the interaction between humans and animals. The dystopian model creates a dynamic playing field where I can experiment with these ideas and forms." - Josh Keyes

Keyes paintings explore the relationship between animal and humans in a way that differs from my work. He explores the more environmental interaction between humans and animals and how humans have effected wild animal habitats. I really enjoy his use of selective color between pieces and his use of everyday objects that are recognizable of human existence. I also enjoy the ambiguity in whether the animals are taking back the land or not.

Josh Keyes


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